Harry Dresden is the only professional wizard in Chicago. He's a private detective, so when the Chicago PD has a case they can't explain that they think may have supernatural connections, they bring in Harry as a consultant. Lately, business has been slow, and Harry is having trouble making his rent. Just when he thinks he might go broke, the police bring him in to help investigate a bizarre and grisly double murder. After one look at the crime scene, Harry is certain the murders were committed using black magic. At the same time, a woman comes to Harry asking for his help in finding her missing husband. As he investigates both cases, Harry finds a trail of organized crime and corruption that appears to converge, while at every turn someone seems to be out to get him. Can Harry track down and defeat the black mage before he himself becomes the next victim, and can he do it without breaking any of the laws of magic which will surely get him in trouble with the White Council?
Storm Front was a very good start to the full-length novels of the Dresden Files series. The first half or so of the book was admittedly a little slow in places and could be a bit narrative heavy throughout. I think this may be partly owing to the first in a series syndrome, where the author must spend time building the characters and their world. The first half also focuses more on the mystery aspect of the story with Harry simply doing some good old-fashioned sleuthing, but the second half really takes off, ratcheting up the suspense and focusing more on the paranormal and urban fantasy aspects. The mystery portion perhaps wasn't quite as mysterious as it could have been. Once I got to a certain point in the story, it was pretty easy to figure out who the perpetrator was and there were few surprises after that, but I still had fun with it anyway. All in all, a very enjoyable read.
The biggest reason I'm slowly becoming a fan of this series is Harry. He's an awesome hero and someone a geek like me can relate to. I'm already half in love with him and will unabashedly add him to my list of literary crushes, and this isn't even a romance. Despite being a very talented wizard, Harry is pretty much the underdog. Except for his cat, Mister, and his sidekick, Bob, he is basically all alone in the world. He has acquaintances, but at this point in the story arc, few people I would call close friends. On the contrary, practically everyone is out to get him at various times, even his police contacts, Murphy and Carmichael. Because of things that happened with a dark wizard in Harry's past, the White Council has sent a warden, Morgan, to watch him. Morgan and some of the council members are just waiting for Harry to screw up again, so they can execute him. So far, we've only gotten tidbits of what happened and what Harry did, so I'm really looking forward to learning more about his past. I like that just because Harry is a wizard, he isn't invincible or able to do anything with his powers. In fact, he uses his intelligence and ingenuity to get out of sticky situation more so than his magical powers. He also has problems and vulnerabilities just like any normal human, such as being late on his rent and puking at crime scenes. In addition, his wizard powers have a tendency to render technology of any kind useless around him, so he has no choice but to use his wits.
I think what makes Harry so lovable though, at least to a woman like me, is his sense of honor and integrity. He always tries to do the right thing. He may think about doing the 'wrong' thing to get out of a difficult situation, but in the end, he always chooses to take the high road. He has a good sense of self and is confident without being cocky or arrogant. He's smart, resourceful and kind of on the geeky side. He has horrible luck with women, is pretty awkward around them, and appears to be rather inexperienced when it comes to the fairer sex. Despite that though, he still admires the ladies and is old-fashioned, gentlemanly, and loves helping damsels in distress. He's also kind and honest with a sensitive spirit. What's not to love? I even adore his leather duster and how he's always wearing odd clothing combinations (or none at all;-)). His sarcastic sense of humor keeps me on my toes too.
There are some supporting characters who I believe will play roles throughout the series. Harry's cat, Mister, is really cute and the fact that Harry rescued him from a trash can when he was just a kitten shows what a good heart Harry has. Harry's sidekick, Bob, is a mischievous spirit who lives inside a skull. Bob is full of sarcastic comments and is always doing things to get himself or Harry into trouble, but at the same time is a big help to Harry. Murphy and Carmichael are the Chicago PD detectives with whom Harry works. Murphy has seen enough with her own eyes to mostly believe that Harry is for real and that there really are things that go bump in the night. She can have a little bit of a softer side, but most of the time doesn't let it show and doesn't cut Harry any slack either. Her partner, Carmichael, on the other hand is a complete skeptic when it comes to the supernatural. Then there is Harry's warden, Morgan, who is looking for any excuse to whack Harry, but at the same time has a certain sense of honor and fairness. The villain, victims, and other secondary characters were well-drawn and interesting too.
Overall, I had a good time reading Storm Front. It kind of has the feel of a noir detective novel mixed with fantasy and paranormal elements. There is plenty of action and suspense, but at the same time, a lot of Harry's one-liners and some of the situations he ends up in are LOL funny. Harry himself is just a wonderful character, a great mix of powerful wizard and everyday guy, and I can't wait to read more of his adventures.
Note: I rated this book 3 hearts on my sensuality scale. It does not contain any actual love scenes, but there is other sexual content, including some kinky things, that come up during the course of Harry's investigation. These things are not described in great detail, but might make sensitive readers uncomfortable.
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